What Is A Wire Inlay?

What Is A Wire Inlay?

Wire cloisonné, one of the traditional techniques in ancient metalworking, is the most crucial decorative process in the production of Chinese cloisonné enamelware. This technique involves using gold, silver, or other metal wires to create patterns that follow the curves and twists of ink-drawn designs, which are then fused to the surface of the object. The dragon-shaped golden ornaments found in the tomb of Prince Guangling of the Eastern Han Dynasty in Hankou, Jiangsu Province, were made using this technique. Wire cloisonné is not only used on jewelry and metalwork but also on enamelware, such as wire cloisonné enamel.

 

The origins of wire cloisonné can be traced back to the ancient art of gold inlay, and it likely has some connection to this technique. Wire cloisonné enamel originated in Persia (modern-day Iran) and matured during the fifth and sixth centuries. It was later introduced to places such as the Arab world and the Eastern Roman Empire before reaching China during the Liao Dynasty. The first example of wire cloisonné enamelware discovered in China is a pair of wire cloisonné hairpins with floral patterns, which are now held in the Khitan Museum in Balinzuoqi.

 

The junction of wire and glaze is critical to the production of Chinese cloisonné enamelware, as well as cloisonné enamel artwork, so wire cloisonné is of utmost importance. The quality of wire cloisonné directly affects the overall effect of the artwork. The production of cloisonné enamel artwork involves several steps, including selecting and drawing patterns, wire cloisonné, blue point painting, and mold pressing. Of these steps, pattern selection and drawing are prerequisites, wire cloisonné and blue point painting are key steps, and mold pressing is the most critical.

 

The junction of wire and glaze is critical to the production of Chinese cloisonné enamelware, as well as the Cloisonné Health Ball, so wire cloisonné is of utmost importance. The quality of wire cloisonné directly affects the overall effect of the product.

 

The process of wire inlay is as follows:

 

  • Select the line that needs to be inlaid with wire and apply glue to the pattern on the surface.

 

  • The wire should be straightened first using scissors or tweezers.

 

  • Check if one end of the wire is bent, and if so, cut it off with scissors.

 

  • Hold one end of the wire with tweezers in the left hand and place it on the glued pattern.

 

  • Bend the other end of the wire with the right hand to follow the line pattern.

 

Wire inlay is a crucial step in the production of cloisonné enamel. The process involves using tweezers to fold, bend and curl soft, thin, and tough purple copper wire into various patterns according to a design, which is then dipped in white wax or paste and adhered to the copper base. After welding, blue enameling, and gilding, the piece is complete. The wire inlay process requires skillful hands and a mastery of techniques to create intricate and lively designs. It is said that this step is like the framework of a building and is essential for achieving a high level of artistic expression in the final product.

 

Wire inlay requires the artist to have a nimble touch, which can only be achieved through long-term and dedicated practice. Those who have seen Jin Shijun, a master wire inlay artist, at work are amazed at his expert handling of the sharp-tipped tweezers, deftly turning them to create delicate gold flowers, birds, and even landscapes on the surface of the vessel.

 

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